Queen’s University to host 2023 and 2024 Vanier Cup games

Lisette Johnson-Stapley (centre) of U Sports announces Queen’s University as the host of the 2023 and 2024 Vanier Cup games on March 30, 2023, flanked by (L to R) Queen’s Gaels Football Head Coach Steve Snyder, Executive Director of Queen’s Athletics & Recreation Linda Melnick, Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane, and Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson. Photo by Dylan Chenier/Kingstonist.

Queen’s University and the city of Kingston will host the 2023 and 2024 editions of the Vanier Cup, the national championship for Canadian university football. At a press conference on Thursday, Mar. 30, 2023, at Richardson Stadium, officials from U Sports — Canada’s official governing body for university athletics — announced that the Queen’s Gaels has been awarded hosting duties for the next two championship events.

“Today, we are thrilled to ensure we maintain and strengthen our leadership in the sport of football throughout Canadian communities, by announcing that the 58th and the 59th Vanier Cups will be held right here at Richardson Stadium in Kingston, Ontario,” said Lisette Johnson-Stapley, Chief Sport Officer for U Sports. “Kingston is one of Ontario’s oldest cities and home to over 30,000 students. Queen’s [is an ideal] location along the 401 corridor, [allowing] fans from all over to come and celebrate university football.” 

The Vanier Cup is a major Canadian sporting event and serves as the official end to the university football season. The 2023 contest will be played on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, at 1 pm at Richardson Stadium. While officials would typically award hosting duties one year at a time, the tight turnaround between the announcement and the actual event created an opportunity for U Sports to secure a two-year host for the championship. 

“It’s pretty unique for U Sports, but I’m finding more and more universities like the two-year concept. Given the timing of the Vanier Cup, there’s not a huge runway, we try to give two years in advance for [most] events, and [Vanier Cup hosts] have less than a year. I think it’s going to be great for football in Canada, and that’s what Queen’s wants, to grow [the game] and then build that momentum for 2024,” added Johnson-Stapley.

According to Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, the event is expected to inject millions of dollars into the local economy. With supporters from the two competing schools, as well as football fans from across Canada making the journey to the host city each year, the Vanier Cup games are expected to bring thousands of visitors to the city over the course of each event. 

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson speaks about the opportunity for the city to host the 2023 and 2023 Vanier Cup games. Photo by Dylan Chenier/Kingstonist.

“We are very excited to host what I’m sure will be many visitors from across the country. We will make sure that not only is the Vanier Cup an amazing event on the field, but an incredible experience off the field, as well. We know that there will be millions of dollars in economic impact coming to Kingston,” Paterson said. 

Not only is hosting the 2023 Vanier Cup a major milestone for the city of Kingston, but it’s also a significant privilege for Queen’s University and the school’s athletic program. “We are truly honoured that Queen’s University has been awarded the opportunity to host the Vanier Cup,” said Linda Melnick, Executive Director of Queen’s Athletics & Recreation.

“[Hosting] the Vanier Cup [is] an exceptional opportunity for Queens Athletics and Recreation to build upon the credibility and merits of [the] Queen’s football program, the Division of Student Affairs, and the University of Queen’s as a whole, with a focus on revitalizing traditions and creating stronger connections within our community and beyond,” added Melnick. 

From an athletics standpoint, hosting two back-to-back championship games will give the Queen’s football team something special to strive for throughout the next two seasons, as the national spotlight continues to shine on the program. “Under the leadership of coach Steve Snyder… the program has just made substantial strides. The credibility of the student athletes, just representing themselves and the work they’re doing, you actually just want to host an event like this for them,” Melnick noted. 

Unlike some major sporting events, like the Memorial Cup, the hosts of the Vanier Cup are not guaranteed an automatic berth into the game, meaning Queen’s will have to survive a tough playoff journey to make it to the national championship. According to Melnick, the team is ready for the challenge. “They’re going for it, they’re going to make it happen,” she said. 

The Gaels’ last Vanier Cup appearance came back in 2009 when Queen’s defeated the University of Calgary Dinos 33-31 in Quebec City to claim the school’s fourth championship title. After some disappointing seasons throughout the late 2010s, the Gaels have looked strong the past two years, making it to back-to-back provincial championship games, losing to the Western Mustangs on both occasions. 

The official logo for the 2023 and 2024 Vanier Cup games. Image via U Sports.

The Vanier Cup games will be played at Queen’s new state-of-the-art Richardson Memorial Stadium, which opened its doors back in 2016 after an extensive revitalization campaign. As one of the top university football stadiums in the country, it was only a matter of time before the facility would play host to the Vanier Cup. “I had begun conversations with Queen’s a few years ago to see if they’d ever be interested in [hosting]… even before the building was put together. It’s a great stadium,” remarked Johnson-Stapley. 

According to Melnick, the event has been a long time coming for the school. “I think this was always a long-term vision tied to the revitalization of Richardson Stadium… The timing [for this year] just came together. I think seeing the success of the Vanier Cup in London last year also made the feasibility a bit more of a reality.” 

With a capacity of 10,500, a full house is expected to be on hand, providing an exciting atmosphere for fans and players alike. The 2023 championship game will also allow Queen’s University to show off its new Lang Pavilion at the north end of the stadium. Set to be complete this summer, the pavilion will offer an elevated sightline of the field, as well as additional concessions, washroom facilities, and a permanent home for the Queen’s Club.

First played in 1965, the Vanier Cup has become a major Canadian football tradition, broadcast nationally on CBC and TVA Sports. Since its inception, the game has been played in seven different cities, with Toronto having hosted the game on 41 different occasions. Most recently, the 2022 Vanier Cup game was played at a sold-out Western Alumni Stadium in London, Ontario. 

“Football does bring communities together, and we’ve seen this in cities like Quebec City and London. Last year’s Vanier Cup sold out before they even knew if Western qualified… [Kingston] is a truly great city to bring a Vanier Cup event to. With all the great amenities Kingston has to offer, we know family, friends, and fans will take the opportunity to come as a vacation,” added Johnson-Stapley. The 2023 Vanier Cup game will mark the first time the city of Kingston has hosted the prestigious championship.

The 2023-2024 athletics season will be a busy one for Queen’s as the university plays host to three different U Sports national championship events. Along with the Vanier Cup, next fall will also see the school host the 2023 Women’s Soccer National Championship. Meanwhile, in March of 2024, Queen’s is set to play host to the U Sports Men’s Volleyball Championship.

Additional information for the 2023 and 2024 Vanier Cup games, including ticket sales, will be released later this summer.

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